End of 2024 legislative session includes nod to Eucharistic Congress

By Victoria Arthur

Statehouse Correspondent for Indiana’s Catholic Newspapers

The conclusion of the 2024 legislative session saw numerous highlights for the Indiana Catholic Conference, including the General Assembly’s recognition of the upcoming National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis.

Among the successes for the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) in this year’s short legislative session, which concluded March 8, were measures expanding disaster relief for Hoosiers and protecting minors from online pornography. Like every year, there were also disappointments, including the passage of a long-acting contraceptives bill that the ICC had opposed. 

“In this session, like others before it, the ICC didn’t get everything it asked for, but we cannot be discouraged,” said Angela Espada ICC executive director, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Indiana. “When we truly believe in something, we stay committed and continue to work with our legislators for positive changes that will benefit not just the faithful, but all Hoosiers.”

One example of the ICC’s outreach is the annual Catholic legislators’ dinner, which is held in Indianapolis before the beginning of Lent and sponsored by businesses including local members of Legatus, an international organization of Catholic business leaders. The yearly event brings together Catholic lawmakers, ICC leaders and the five Catholic bishops of Indiana in addition to many of the business sponsors. 

This year’s dinner prompted a Senate resolution recognizing the historic nature of the National Eucharistic Congress, which will bring tens of thousands of people to Indianapolis in July for the first such event to be held in the United States in 83 years. 

Catholic lawmaker Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) says she was inspired to draft the resolution after hearing Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis discuss the importance and magnitude of the event during the Feb. 12 dinner.

“The archbishop spoke about how historic this event will be and what a huge impact it will have on our state, and I thought that we really should honor this,” said Brown, a member of St. Jude Catholic Parish in Fort Wayne. “To have that many people from across the country and all over the world coming to Indianapolis to celebrate something so important – the Eucharistic Revival – is incredibly impactful, and that’s why I did this.”

Brown collaborated on Senate Concurrent Resolution 27 with fellow Catholic lawmakers Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) and Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne). The resolution was signed March 5. 

“This is not just something significant to Catholics,” Brown said. “It’s significant to this state and to the country. And now it is part of our historical record in Indiana.”

During the 2024 General Assembly, Brown also co-authored legislation that was among the ICC’s top priorities: Senate Bill 17, a measure aimed at restricting minors from accessing online pornography. With Gov. Eric Holcomb signing the bill into law on March 13, Indiana became the ninth state to require pornography sites to use a robust age verification system to operate within state lines. 

“This is a good start to protect our children,” Brown said. 

The only opposition came from the American Civil Liberties Union, which may challenge the law as it has done with similar legislation in other states.

Another success for the ICC was passage of Senate Bill 190, which simplifies access to disaster relief for Indiana residents and increases the maximum assistance a household may receive following a tornado, flood or other natural disaster from $10,000 to $25,000. 

The bill, also signed into law by Gov. Holcomb on March 13, was authored by another Catholic lawmaker – Sen. Cyndi Carrasco (R-Indianapolis) – in her first term as a member of the Indiana General Assembly. 

“This legislation will help balance the increasing need for Catholic Charities and other disaster response organizations to assist the uninsured and underinsured as construction and rebuilding costs continue to rise,” said Alexander Mingus, ICC associate director. 

With respect to pro-life priorities, the ICC tracked a number of bills during the legislative session. The ICC supported Senate Bill 98, which would allow unborn children to be claimed as dependents on state taxes. While the measure received a hearing, it did not go up for a vote during this short, non-budget-year session due to its fiscal impact. 

“We expect further conversation on this bill in 2025 and beyond,” Mingus said. 

The ICC was dismayed that a bill aimed at providing low-income women with long-acting contraceptives immediately following childbirth moved forward despite its opposition. House Bill 1426, which requires hospitals to offer a woman eligible for or receiving Medicaid assistance the option of having a long-acting, reversible contraceptive implanted before she is discharged from the hospital following delivery of her baby, was signed into law by Gov. Holcomb on March 12. 

While acknowledging that faith-based hospitals with religious objections would be exempt from the requirement, the ICC expressed concerns about the legislation and unsuccessfully pushed for an amendment to have Natural Family Planning (NFP) offered to new mothers as well. 

“If the goal is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, we felt strongly that hospitals should also provide information about NFP – one of the most effective and least costly methods of planning a family, and the only one that does not pose health risks to the woman,” Espada said. 

With the conclusion of another legislative session, Espada and Mingus expressed gratitude to everyone who contacted their legislators about key bills and issues important to the common good. Now, in this election year, they are calling on the faithful to become even more engaged. 

They point to numerous resources for reflection, including “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a guide for faithful political responsibility from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). 

“In all times, but especially in an election year, our bishops ask us to pray and form our consciences to better equip us with a moral vision that transcends the secular vision of our age,” Mingus said. 

The ICC website, www.indianacc.org, also offers a wealth of resources to guide Catholics as they look toward the Indiana primaries in May, the general election in November, and another legislative session in 2025.

“We are grateful for everyone’s prayers and advocacy as we continue to amplify the voice of the Catholic Church in the public arena,” Mingus said. 

A page tracking all of the key legislation the ICC followed in the 2024 legislative session may be accessed at www.indianacc.org/bill-tracker.